The family of a Marine recruit who died during training in South Carolina has disputed the determination that he killed himself amid a widespread culture of hazing and abuse in the Marine Corps.
Shiraz Khan, the attorney for the family of Raheel Siddiqui, released a statement, saying there’s lack of evidence that the 20-year-old Michigan native killed himself March 18 at Parris Island by jumping into 40-foot stairwell.
Khan said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press that Siddiqui didn't have any "disqualifying conditions, medical or otherwise, during recruiting and processing into the U.S. Marine Corps. It's impossible for his family and friends to accept that he took his own life."
Family members contend that Siddiqui may have been targeted because he was a Pakistani-American Muslim, the newspaper reported. Marine officials told the Free Press hat his drill sergeant was abusive toward Siddiqui and a previous recruit who was Muslim, according to Marine officials.
According to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the abuse allegations, investigators found that the drill sergeant had previously told another Muslim recruit that he was a terrorist and was involved in the 9/11 terror attack. The drill sergeant also allegedly stuffed the person in a dryer.
The Journal reported that the drill sergeant also told Siddiqui he was a terrorist.
The Marine Corps has said the death could lead to punishments for as many as 20 officers and enlisted leaders, some of whom have already been fired. The findings resulted from three investigations conducted by the Marines.
Last weekend U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell, (D-MI) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) traveled to the Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot located on the South Carolina coast about 75 miles southwest of Charleston.
Siddiqui's family lives in Dingell's district. She and Issa met with depot commander Marine Brig. General Austin Renforth, and other senior Corps leaders about changes the Marines are making.
The Corps has said it is increasing oversight over training activities and will have no tolerance for hazing including mandatory suspension of any personnel investigated for abuse or hazing.
"General Renforth has assured me this is personal to him and he is committed to working toward real change to help prevent a tragedy like this from happening in the future," Dingell said in a statement.
About 500 drill instructors are assigned to Parris Island, which trains male recruits from east of the Mississippi River. It is the only base that trains female Marine recruits who are trained separately from the men.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.